The Bahrain Conference depoliticizes the Palestinian cause and portrays it as a humanitarian issue in the first place, denying the fact that Palestine suffers from a multi-tiered system of oppression.
Everybody is talking about the two-day Bahrain Conference held in Manama entitled “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” to discuss “prosperous economic development" proposals in Palestine.
This conference is said to come as the first stage of the so-called "Deal of the Century." But this is not true. The deal has already started when the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem last year after declaring it, all of it, as the capital of the Jewish state of Israel when Israel killed 62 Palestinians participating in the peaceful demonstration of the Great Return March. Moreover, the U.S. declared Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. And the West Bank is to be annexed to Israel. DC represents an economic aspect of the slowly unraveled deal.
On the surface, this conference looks exclusively economic but it goes beyond this. The danger of this conference does not only manifest in boosting normalization between Arab countries, especially the Gulf, with Israel but also minimize the Palestinian struggle into an economic crisis. Meaning, it depoliticizes the Palestinian cause and portrays it as a humanitarian issue in the first place, denying the fact that Palestine suffers from a multi-tiered system of oppression enshrined in Israel and incarnated in occupation, settler-colonialism, and Apartheid.
This conference, in fact, is one step in the continual dehumanization of the Palestinian people. To say the least, that the Palestinian cause costs as much as 50 billion dollars, distributed to Palestine (US$28 billion) and surrounding countries like Egypt (US$12 billion), Jordan (US$7 billion) and Lebanon (US$6 billion) within 10 years.
It shows that the blood of the Palestinian martyrs and the people’s long-suffering can be bargained upon, that money can make up to Palestinians for the ongoing ethnic cleansing which began in 1948, that the incremental genocide inflicted by Israel on Palestinians can be forgotten for bread crumbs and a trivial sum of money. And most importantly, that the unquestionable right of Palestinians to return to their usurped homelands and compensation as guaranteed in Resolution 194 can be alienated.
What Kushner wants to convey is that peace can be achieved in the Middle East through building infrastructure in trade, transportation, tourism, and digital services, forgetting the fact that Israel is the main reason behind the destruction of this infrastructure. Whatever apolitical projects are proposed will be deficient and unsuccessful, though it may prove the opposite in the short run, because the root of the problem lies in Israel’s existence in Palestine.
Occupying the senior adviser in Trump’s current administration and living in a post-colonial U.S. which wouldn’t have been the current U.S. without genocide against its Indigenous population, Kushner insists on giving the impression of doing the Palestinians a favor by bringing “peace” and “prosperity” into their “reactionary” and "poverty-stricken" homeland. This colonial white supremacist mentality asks Palestinians to be the good slave by obeying and cooperating.
The good Palestinian is the one who admits total submission to their master. Palestinians are expected to thank the U.S. Administration for saving them from themselves. Earlier this month, Kushner expressed racist remarks of the incapability of Palestinians of governing themselves. Therefore, Palestinians need a superior side, who are capable and advanced, to take control of them and directs their affairs.
From their side, Palestinians, inside occupied Palestine and in the diaspora, announced their rejection of Manama conference and, consequently, its outcomes. Palestinians, in the West Bank, led civil demonstrations in the street condemning this conference, which is an auction in its essence, and those taking part in it. Gaza also has shown its rejection by a general strike.
The Palestinian leadership asserted that this conference is empty of meaning as it comes against the will of Palestinians and opens the gate to undervalue the Palestinian cause. On the 63rd Friday of the Great March of Return, Palestinians went out protesting under the slogan "Land Is not for Sale."
The word remains of the people. The civil society in the participating countries took out in protest against their governments’ participation. Hence, Palestinians bank on the conscientious people to heed their call of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, known widely as BDS which aims at isolating Israel from the world until it ends its violations of human rights and complies with the international law. It is Palestinians, who determine the form of solidarity with them as they are the oppressed. Palestinians seek freedom, justice, and equality.
Once again, Kushner uses a decorated language to evade the fact that his plan aims at liquidating the Palestinian cause once and for all by obliterating the refugees' cause. If the US really had cared a bit about the economic status of the Palestinians, it would not have tried to shut down the UNRWA or halted its aids in the first place!
The picture is clearer with Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon, asking Palestinians to surrender and yearning for the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat who officially normalized relationship with Israel by signing the Camp-David treaty in 1978.
This deal is beneficial to Israel only. After all, Trump and Kushner strive to maintain Israel’s security as if Israel is not a real threat in the Middle East. Lately, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, said that “Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”
The Oslo Accords constitutes a fertile ground for DC. When signed in 1993, Oslo implanted the hope of bringing about prosperity in Palestine within five years and turning it into Singapore. After half a century of the futile and fruitless peace process, the Palestinian situating is worsening. Jerusalem is gone, the West Bank is annexed, and the Gaza Strip has become the biggest concentration camp and largest open-air prison on Earth. And Palestinians annoy the world by not dying in silence. Because they keep banging on the tank!
What Kushner fails to understand is that freedom, justice, equality, and dignity are rights that cannot be bought. The great late Egyptian poet Amal Dunkul described this case well in his verses:
“Do not reconcile
even if they give you gold
if I were to gouge out your eyes
and replace them with two gems
would you see?
These things are priceless”
-Ayah AlGhazzawi is a BDS activist based in Gaza.